Friday, October 12, 2007

From Funk 49 to Emo Screamo

Credit: Steve Radford

I stopped listening to new music around 1979 when I graduated from college. I hated disco in the 80s and the hair bands seemed more interested in spandex than music. I was stuck in the 70s listening to artists like The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin and Joe Walsh.

The development of Napster was great for me. I was able to burn classic rock tunes onto CD's and listen to my old music on new technology. I never felt guilty about downloading old songs, figuring that if Id already purchased the music on LP, 8-Track and Cassette, I shouldn't have to buy the CD too.

After missing almost two decades of music, it was my son that pulled me out of my musical rut. He inherited his mother's musical ability and developed a serious passion for most styles of music. When he was 14 or so, I remember coming home from work to hear him wailing away on the guitar. He was playing Voodoo Child, a Jimi Hendrix tune from the 60s, wah pedal and all.

When we were kids, parents said things like "Turn that noise down". But when I heard my son playing, even though the windows were rattling, all I could come up with was, when I was your age I listened to music like, well, that! Go do your homework.

My son worked his way through my music quickly and began to branch out. I tried, in vain, to follow along with all the bands and artists that he listened to. He introduced me to some great groups that I had missed like Incubus and Switchfoot. There were also the screamer bands like Underoath or The Bled.

It took me a while to grasp the screamer thing. The concept never made sense to me and I couldn't understand the lyrics. Then one day, driving in the car, an old Carly Simon tune came on the radio. It was her 70s hit You Belong to Me. The song tells the story of a woman who has discovered that her lover has turned his attention to another. The lyrics are emotionally charged: Tell her that I love you. Tell her she don't even know you. The song builds, the emotion builds and then the sax solo! Bobby Keys screaming sax solo. Without a word it says everything. I thought wow, todays screaming is yesterdays passionate sax or high-flying guitar solo.

As my son started performing in bands, I would go to see them. The bands that played were generally rock bands but they would never just call the music rock. I was hearing unfamiliar descriptions like Punk, Ska, Metal, Emo, Hardcore and Post-Hardcore. I kept asking questions, trying to understand what made one band Metal and another band Punk. Finally, impatient with all my questions, my son just said "Don't try to figure it out, its all rock". I wasn't satisfied with my sons answer. So I took a stab at defining some of the newer styles. If you have any interest in getting caught up on post 1980 music, maybe the following will help. Consider it a kind of Idiots Guide to rock music:

• Punk is fast-paced and not too complex. The fans have spiked Mohawks and their wallets are chained to their baggy pants.
• If you hear brass and hollow-body, electric guitars and you want to tap your toes, its probably Ska.
• Metal is dark and intense. Look for bikers and lots of tattoos. Vocals sometimes sound similar to WWF wrestling interviews.
• I'm still not sure how Hardcore is different from Metal. Vocals are mostly screamed in both. Maybe its the shoes. Sneakers are Hardcore, Combat boots are Metal.
• Post-Hardcore seems to have more movement and transition in the songs, while maintaining the hardcore intensity. Screaming is used for impact but you hear melodic vocals too. Fans seem more interested in the music and less concerned about the image than the Punk or Metal followers.
• Emo, short for emotional, usually features dramatic, sometimes ragged vocals. Fans wear tight girl jeans regardless of gender.

If you care to listen to samples of new and progressive music, you might enjoy Purevolume, a music website where you can find hundreds of bands in each of the categories mentioned plus other genres like Powerpop and Ambient.

Thanks to my son, I decided that I liked some of the new music. I even tried to scream along with a song the other day in the car but started coughing and had to pull over. I guess I forgot that I'm forty nine years old. Forty nine. That reminds me of an old Joe Walsh tune! I think I'll go pop in the cassette.

1 comment:

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